Pets and people go together like bread and butter, as much as we like to talk about enriching our pets’ lives with toys and play, the truth is the very presence of a dog can often enrich human lives. They are man’s best friend after all! Assistance dogs are living proof of this. When it comes to the elderly, disabled, or otherwise impaired, there’s nothing quite like an assistance dog to not only help out with basic tasks and chores but add quality of life and sociability to those in need.

Assistance dogs are a heavy investment. Disability services such as Guide Dogs Australia often require up to or more than $25,000 to train an assistance dog, depending on the particular training required. However, once trained assistance dogs can perform the following tasks:

  • Open doors
  • Pick up items
  • Do laundry/fetch other items necessary for housework
  • Alert bark to alert the owner of danger, guests or other things that require immediate attention
  • Help owner cross roads by pressing buttons at traffic lights
  • Pay cashier at stores

For providers of assistance dogs it often takes a long time to match up the right dog to the right person. Those companies that provide assistance dogs try carefully to match the personality and training the dog has undertaken to the personality and needs of the person needing assistance.

Types of Assistance Dogs

There are many types of assistance dogs.

Those specifically trained to aid the hearing or vision impaired. These dogs are specifically trained to use different alerts for sounds, such as touching (nudging) or licking in order to show the owner there is something needing their attention.

A mobility assistance dog can help with walking and/or pulling a wheelchair.

A dog specifically trained as an autism assistance dogcan use a technique such as deep pressure, i.e sitting on the child’s lap or chest, in order to calm them down, and to run after them if the child runs away. These dogs are best kept in a harness and in constant connection to their charge in order to keep the dog in the child’s mind as much as possible.

Assistance dogs can aid the impaired by providing greater freedom, independence and personhood. A valuable trait for those already struggling with mental and physical handicaps such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, autism spectrum disorders and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Not only do they make great carers, but assistance dogs can also be taken to hospitals, hospices and old folk’s homes, providing an affectionate and adorable treat for sick children, adults and the elderly.

A licensed assistance dog is granted public access rights, it is illegal to refuse entry to an identified assistance dog and any person/proprietor who does so can be charged, therefore assistance dogs are the perfect guide to take to appropriate social outings.

Guide dogs are well-equipped and trained to deal with emergency situations. Training allows them to navigate quickly through crowds, find emergency exits and bring medication to owners/patients. A guide dog can also be trained to calm down someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or another mental illness during a panic attack.

Pets in general, dogs especially, are known to improve sociability among communities, with many dog owners suggesting that they might not have met many people in their neighbourhoods without their canine on hand. The quality of life that comes with this kind of improved sociability is invaluable for those whose age, illness or mental difficulties can limit their interactions with others, time spent outdoors and time generally being active.